It must be understood that achieving a flat stomach or six-pack does not occur as a result of any form of abdominal exercise in isolation. It is also important to point out that you cannot spot reduce one particular area of the body; you have to focus on overall body fat loss by following an appropriate eating plan, in combination with weight training and cardiovascular exercise. You don’t burn petrol by opening and closing the bonnet of the car. You burn it by driving it. The same applies with your stomach. Move your body and you will burn the fuel and fat off your stomach. It may surprise you to learn that we all have a six pack, some people also have a layer of fat over the top of theirs!
The only way to get a flat stomach is to firstly lower your overall body fat (through proper nutrition and regular weight training and cardiovascular exercise). The body tends to store fat easiest around the mid section due to the need to protect the vital internal organs. It is due to this natural survival mechanism that excess fat is stored here first and can be the last area the body draws on for energy. The body will take energy stored in the fat of the arms and legs before taking it from the mid section as its priority is to protect the precious organs. This is why for some individuals reducing fat around their mid section can be tough.
Secondly, the stabilising muscles around the spine need to be activated to achieve a neutral lumbar spine, rather than a lordotic spine, which make the stomach protrude.One of the most widely known abdominal exercises is the “crunch”.
The Rectus Abdominus (which is the muscle targeted when performing a crunch) does not play a direct role in core stability as this muscle does not attach to the spine. The Rectus Abdominus is generally stronger than the stabilising muscles and its main role is to flex the spine, the movement performed when doing crunches.
People may respond by saying that they don’t perform crunches to stabilise their spine. Instead they perform them to get a flat stomach. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but this is never going to work.
There is only one way to make an abdominal crunch effectively switch ‘on’ the stabilising muscles and that is to perform them very slowly, with the correct breathing pattern. You stabilise first and then exhale on the contraction or crunch part of the exercise.
That way, the Rectus Abdominus is forced to co-contract with the Obliques, Transverse Abdominus and Multifidus, as they consist of predominantly Slow Twitch muscle fibres, which like to be recruited slowly.
Crunches performed at faster speeds may be useful to the body builder who wishes to thicken the Rectus Abdominus to achieve the “Six Pack” look. However, this will only be effective once the Body Fat has been lost.
If clients, who are not conscious about losing Body Fat, perform crunches they may appear to be getting fatter, as the abdominal wall thickens, without a corresponding loss of adipose tissue.
Now that we’ve established people should generally focus on exercises that will stabilise the core, there are so many effective exercises to choose from:
- Supine Floor Holds
- Supine floor Crunches
- Prone Ball Holds
- Supine Ball Holds
- Supine Ball Crunches
- Supine Leg Lowers
These are all useful exercises and each of them have various progressions to them.